6 things I’ve learned in Melbourne in 6 months

As it is inevitably already August, I realized I am halfway through my (hopefully not last) year in Australia. I’ve lived mostly in Melbourne for the past months, trying to live somewhat ‘normal’ life, but with a refreshing one month holiday up north. I don’t think my Working Holiday experience has been like most backpackers’, but then again I don’t consider myself as one. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of my surroundings these upcoming months, but who knows. Here follows 6 things I have learned these past 6 months.

 

Got double suprised at work just because.
 People are extremely friendly. Of course this can vary from city to another and the outback is a whole other story, but in general Aussies and travelers alike are a friendly bunch with their “howyagoin” greetings and other funny stuff they say. One rather effective way of meeting people is the ever so popular Tinder-game. Just keep your expectations low and don’t expect to meet the love of your life, and you might end up with a few new friends (Or the awkward situation where you think you’re friends, and the other person has other ideas…)!

 

Keep your eyes open, you mever know what comes along
 Timing is everything. This applies to finding a job, a house, even friends! I met my best friends in H&m and on a tram, and I got my current job by walking past it before they had opened. When it comes to work, be persistent. If you are looking for hospitality jobs, even Instagram can help you (@cafejobs_melb)! I am still trying to figure out the sponsorship possibilities, oh dear, they do not make it easy. Some days I wish I was a radiologist or a brain surgeon, just to feel wanted here.

 

Sippin herbal tea in my yogapants before yin class
 Take advantage of cheap fitness trials. Or in my case, intro yoga/pilates passes. most yoga and pilates schools offer intro deals for about 50$ for (unlimited) 2 weeks. I have so far been to 6 different studios offering either only yoga or a combination of yoga and pilates. Besides the CBD, South Yarra is the mecca for stretching activities. At the moment I am doing a free 2 week trial at F45 Port melbourne, doing intensity interval group training, which is pretty much the complete opposite of yoga. I love it after the first class, but the location is rather inconvenient without a car.

 

All the things you learn by just walking around!
 Stay on top of your city game. There’s too many things to do and events to attend, new restaurants popping up, and don’t get me started on my endless “must go” cafe list. In terms of activities, I keep myself aware of my surroundings with newsletters from The Urban List, Broadsheet and TimeOut. If these three are not enough, Concrete Playground is a good addition.

 

My kind of supermarket
 Shop smart. Take advantage of the markets (Queen Victoria especially), and go there in the afternoon. Cheapest produce you can find, no doubt, and the experience is way nicer than going to Safeways or Aldi. I challenge myself not to drown myself in drink coffee every day, both to stay clear of the addiction as well as to save me some dough (to eat out more than ever before).

 

Brunch outside in the dead of winter, not freezing.
 The winter isn’t that bad (if you come from Northern Europe). I was dreading for Melbourne winter that everyone seemed to regard as being from hell, but seriously it’s not unbearably cold, and even during the chillest days you can always just layer up sipping your coffee.

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Canggu

I have now stayed and kept on extending my accommodation day after day in one of Bali’s most potential surfers’ paradise and upcoming cool hipster mecca, Canggu. Canggu is located a bit north from the infamous party beach of Kuta, followed by Legian and Seminyak, after which comes Kerobokan area where in my best understanding also Canggu is located. I have enjoyed my time here without doing much anything, which is very rare, odd and even scary for me. Why have I stayed so long? I am not even a surfer, though I am doing my best to learn and not to mind the visual damages than follow when getting hit by the board or rolling in the “washing machine” (No picture of my fin hit purple thigh, sorry).

Compared to other places (for example Ubud and Kuta, where I visited for 1 hour the other day and was extremely glad to get away), you are not constantly hassled by people who want to sell you tourist stuff or offer you a taxi/tour/rafting/mushrooms.

Doesn't get more chill than this
Doesn’t get more chill than this

Canggu is laid-back. No one is in a hurry to go anywhere, the biggest topic of the day is the swell and tide, and where to have dinner. And oh boy, there are options. Naturally I want to tell you more about food rather than my experiences of getting my face rubbed against the sand in the sea, or seeing a car (or better yet, two cars) fallen into the rice field.

Best picks for Canggu, if you ever happen to be around:

Inventive and inexpensive menu: just the way I like it!
Inventive and inexpensive menu: just the way I like it! Moshpit is The One, for now.

Crate. Awesome breakfast, quality coffee and good lunch options too for ridiculously cheap prices compared to some other places. You can swap to out-of-this-world-delicious gluten free bread without extra cost, and man that stuff is yum! This place is very laid back and rustic, almost like you’re in an open space loft in San Francisco (though the weather was 38C today)! No extra taxes added, which is always a plus!

 

Raw gado gado aka eat the rainbow. Yes please.
Raw gado gado aka eat the rainbow. Yes please.

Betelnut. Next to Crate, this lovely joint is also open for dinner, but offers also breakfast, smoothies, desserts and whatnot. I have tried their raw gado gado several times, and the other guys usually go for a burger or wraps. Mixture of comforting Western and Asian grub, this place is cosy and also cheap, no added tax.

 

Happy hour at Old Man's.
Happy hour at Old Man’s.

Old Man’s. Bar by the beach with happy hour every weekday – what more can you ask for? Live music at nighttime. Even after rather heavy drinking people drive home on their scooter through the rice paddies.

 

Indo food for like less than 2 euros.
Indo food for like less than 2 euros.

Warung Heebo. Indonesian food that is so cheap it is odd. No idea how they price their food: basically you pick the stuff you want and they give you a price tag which you hand over at the cashier. Convenient.

Deus (ex Machina). Apparently sells motorcycles, cool gear, surfboards and such, but is also a restaurant and “the place to be” on a Sunday night.

Some more? Sprout. Disappointment price-wise, but has AC. Canteen. Another brekkie option, but since I’m so deeply in love with Crate, I haven’t tried it out. Avocado. Sounds tempting, but I have not yet made it there. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.

Beach babe at Berawa.
Beach babe at Berawa.

Beaches. Berawa, Batubolong, Old Man’s, Echo. All the same sea and you can walk the shore, but somehow different. As a beginner surfer I’d go for Batubolong. Oh yeah, I am a surfer. One day, maybe.

When in Canggu, you really need a motorcycle to get around. I had never in my life driven one, but what’s a better place to learn than one where there’s almost no rules, and everyone just seems to drive like a maniac? In the smaller roads I feel quite okay, but I would not go to the bigger ones. And I still prefer to be on the back of a bike than to be the one driving.

Chill mate, we're surfing.
Chill mate, we’re surfing.

Days just seem to float on by, and even though I have plans on moving somewhere else, there is a vibe here that I enjoy. Even besides the food.

Orienteering

First you are somewhere you’ve known as home for years, thinking about how soon everything will be different. Hopefully better. Most likely sunnier. Perhaps cheaper. Definitely exciting. Part of the journey is the planning, but some things are better to be left unplanned. Leave room for coincidence, and real adventures will happen! Some of the adventures might include a festival with dance, traditional music and fire juggling, or going to play badminton in a bamboo hut with local villagemen. In +32 degrees. All this in one evening. (no post-worthy pictures, plus the wifi would make it download 10 more minutes. Though here all I have is time, it is good to sleep too.)

When I left home I had a strong idea of what was waiting for me, since I’ve been to Bali before. It’s not the hardest destination to go to, at least in most places everything is in English too. But going from +1 to +32 and from mute people to “taxi taxi miss”-yells every 2 minutes, I did have a shock. Being awake almost 2 days didn’t really help the overwhelmed feeling I got when arriving here. Lesson I learned the first day: you are never in such a hurry when arriving to a new country that you do not have the time to check reasonable fares to your destination. This is especially important when traveling alone, since you are the only one paying. That’s one of the minuses of traveling solo – there’s no one to share costs with. Luckily it seems like everyone is heading this way, so I am sharing a place with a friend: cheaper, better, and with a pool. When inland and in this heat, one must have a pool. Even with a tight budget.

Home for now - room with a pool, including breakfast. Not too shabby.
Home for now – room with a pool, including breakfast. Not too shabby.

The first days of a trip should be dedicated on .chilling. This is very unnatural for me, specially in a new environment. Partly due to that I couldn’t shut my brain off the first night here, and ended up turning around in bed for 5 hrs before falling asleep. Another tip: when tired, handle foreign money with special care. Suddenly 50000 seems like 5000 and you’re paying hundred times too much for fruits.

Post-spa treat. I just needed this and the 1.5hr lymph massage and herb scrub.
Post-spa treat. I just needed this and the 1.5hr lymph massage and herb scrub.

Yep, I am a budget traveler. But these small things like massages, pedicures etc. are things I have been saving for and not doing in Finland. And this is also my way of supporting the local people and their income. Win-win! (Oh God I hope  I won’t run out of money :D) One thing to do when accommodating yourself to a new environment: if you have the time and care, take your time to compare prizes. Do not trust the men on the street offering special price only for you my friend. Even when you get 50% off.

Midsummer festivities: How to Open a Watermelon

As I have posted before, Midsummer or Summer Soltice is one of Finland’s biggest celebrations. Last year in New York I missed all the traditions: summer cottage, new potatoes, dunk people and whatnot, so this year was my opportunity to take it all back!

Guess what? I decided to stay in the city. Apparently I was not the only one, since there was (still is) a rather big city festival in Pyynikki. No summer cottage (though we do live next to a forest and have a nice view of the lake, which to me is the point of the whole thing), and no new potatoes with fish, but a lot of drunk people at the festival. It all evens out, right? The sun was shining, I even managed to  burn my back on the beach(!), and it was almost full moon, though still light outside at midnight. I “forgot” to collect 7 different flowers to dream of my future husband or the love of my life, nor did I do any other magic tricks and hocus pocus that is traditional to this feast ofthe inevitable: the days are getting shorter, and the winter is coming.

Midsummer midnight swim. Not me, though.
Midsummer midnight swim. Not me, though

With this long intro to the whole deal, I will now reveal to you how to deal with the uncomfortable situation of making a watermelon edible without a knife. A fast youtube search suggested banging your head to the fruit, which I was not that keen on trying (wonder why…) As smashing it to the ground would not have been cost-efficient, I wanted to find an alternative solution.

Battle of strenght
Battle of strength

At this point, you already have the solution. It is suggested to start off with the equipment.

The most beautiful melon
The most beautiful melon

To open a melon without a knife, you need a friend -or someone random- who just happens to carry around some nail scissors or a sewing kit. Just poke holes and cut around the whole damn thing, then start pulling with a friend. Or use karate moves on the cut line, which ever you fancy. The result is much greater than the boring triangles you get with cutting with a knife!

Getting at it
Getting at it

And as a bonus, after scooping the flesh out with your plastic forks and spoons (reserve few extra cause if you’re like me, you’re gonna break at least 4), there’s juice left for making punch drinking.

Sweet juice
Sweet juice

An idea: the left over bowls can be used as helmets, or hats.

So…that was yesterday, there still is today of everything-being-closed-and-drunk-people-wandering, we’ll see if I’ll get the courage to get out of the house and to the city! So far, I have just been devouring on chocolate sauce I made because I didn’t have enough patience to make actual chocolate. Recipe would be coming up in another post, but it’s ridiculously simple and I have no pictures of it besides my chocolatey mouth, so here goes: basically just mix melted coconut oil with cocoa powder and (raw chocolate) honey, then add some lechitin and toco (/other “superfood stuff” or just skip the powders, they’ll add creaminess and vitamins and stuff but who needs those, anyways) and bee pollen to the mix. No need to freeze, scoop it up (with sliced apple, for example) and smile!

The winter is coming, but who cares – it’s summer now!

Hipsterin’

In a strange culture, sometimes you just want to escape all the exotic, weird stuff and need the comfort of familiarity. And when rye bread is not an option and Ikea isn’t enough to satisfy the cravings for something other than China life, what to do? In Hong Kong, there’s Sheung Wan (and some random streets in different neighborhoods) to the rescue.

Kapok in Sun Street
Kapok in Sun Street

Luckily there are few nifty places to go in Wan Chai (mainly the small strip of Sun Street and the surroundings), but most of the cool stuff I have found is elsewhere.
 

Creative street art/promotion for Secret Ingredient
Creative street art/promotion for SecretIngredient.com

 

Sheung Wan, west from Central, is a neighborhood filled with art galleries, pop-up stores and cool cafes, where hipsters flock for brunch on the weekends. Ice drip coffee is not unheard of, and most of the coffee places also sell some small designer stuff. All the international restaurants are nearby in Soho, Sheung Wan is more concentrated on some quality cafes/restaurants with quirky interior and fancy menus.

Common Ground, the place to be
Common Ground is the place to be, even for hipster babies

 

What I like about Sheung Wan the most is the cool decors, overall vibe and appreciation for uniqueness. And apparently there’s some kind of launch party/gallery opening/random happening every week – you just have to know where to go when!

Inviting entrance
Inviting entrance

 

The areas near Sheung Wan MTR (subway) station are dedicated to dried seafood, bird’s nests, and other Traditional Chinese medicine shops: my rough and random estimation is, that there’s easily over 100 different shops selling smelly, odd stuff.

This is just a few blocks from the hipster-haven of Hong Kong
This is just a few blocks from the hipster-haven of Hong Kong

 
So, when one wishes to explore the area where one can order made-to order aeropress coffee rather than shark’s fin soup, there are some steps to be climbed. Perhaps the altitude change and stairs are the reason why upper part of Sheung Wan is occupied by young people!

Sweet wheels
Sweet wheels